INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE FOR ELECTIONS MONITORING
|Saturday, November 12,2005 00:00|
INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE FOR ELECTIONS MONITORING
PRELIMINARY REPORT ON E-DAY VOTING AND COUNTING PROCESS FOR THE FIRST ROUND OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
Free, fair and transparent elections are the basis for any meaningful democracy. The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM) has recruited, trained and has deployed a total of 5,000 observers from 16 NGOs to observe the voting process for the Parliamentary election. ICEM aims to provide for the integrity and the credibility of the election process. In the first round of the election, ICEM deployed 1,586 observers to monitor the voting and counting procedures in 10,644 polling subcommittees distributed in 3,061 polling centers in which a total of 10,752,458 voters were assigned to vote.
ICEM welcomed the cooperation of the security services, and thanks them for generally not interfering with the electoral process by taking sides during most of the incidents that took place earlier today. ICEM also welcomed the use of the transparent ballot boxes. In addition, ICEM highly appreciates the authorities’ decision to give NGO observers access to the voting process.
In general, ICEM monitors reported that election officials have managed to respect the procedures regarding the identification of individual voters. Also, the vast majority of the polling stations were appropriately supplied with indelible ink. Nonetheless, the electoral process has been marred by serious and widespread violations that have undermined the credibility and the integrity of the election. These violations include voter intimidation, vote-buying, ballot stuffing, inaccurate voters’ lists, the appearance of official ballots outside the polling stations, and the discovery of blank, but stamped, pink voters’ cards. In addition, reports of kidnappings, beatings, shootings and arrests provide a truly unacceptable background for a democratic election.
Election authorities have failed to institute mechanisms that would ensure the credibility of the election outcome. All but a few of the ICEM observers were denied access from monitoring the counting of the votes and thus election officials have flagrantly violated the law and Parliamentary Election Committee decision. Furthermore the few that were able to monitor this process have reported severe deficiencies that undermine the credibility of the election outcome. The few observers that managed to get access to the counting centers have reported that the counting was conducted in an inconsistent and chaotic environment. Furthermore, individual polling station results were not announced to anyone present and were secretly tabulated out of the sight of any of the monitors, including candidate poll-watchers. Authorities also failed to provide any break-down of the district results by the polling stations.
Authorities Failed to Institute Mechanisms that Would Ensure the Credibility of the Election Outcome
ICEM maintains that no election can be called free, fair and transparent if voters have been denied the right to monitor and scrutinize the entire process by which their vote is transformed into real political representation. NGOs’ right to monitor the count of the votes is critical to having an election that could be called free, fair and transparent. Thus, ICEM insists that election administration authorities continue with the progress already made and allow NGOs to monitor this essential moment during any electoral process. Furthermore, denying observers the opportunity to monitor the count of the votes seriously undermines any meaningful monitoring of the voting process.
Authorities’ Arbitrary Decisions Continued to Seriously Damage the Transparency of the Election
The Ministry of Justice’s decision made only few hours before the polls opened on Wednesday to allow access to the polling stations only to NGOs that are registered through the Ministry of Social Affairs seriously undermines the citizens’ right to monitor and scrutinize the voting process. ICEM believes that this decision undermines the freedom and independence of civic organizations in Egypt. The authorities’ continual reliance on last-minute decisions proves their intent to conceal information and generate confusion. In addition, the authorities’ intentional failure to publish detailed election-day procedures, the location of polling subcommittees and centers, and any information concerning voters’ lists critically affects the integrity and the transparency of the election process.
Election Marred by Severe and Widespread Violations and Irregularities
The election has been marred by serious and widespread violations that have undermined the credibility and the integrity of the election. These violations include voter intimidation, vote-buying, ballot stuffing, inaccurate voters’ lists, the appearance of official ballots outside the polling stations, the discovery of blank, but stamped, pink voters’ cards and the switching of ballot boxes. In addition, reports of kidnappings, beatings, shootings and arrests provide a truly unacceptable background for a democratic election.
PRE-ELECTION DAY ASSESSMENT
On Tuesday, November 8, ICEM observers were deployed to their polling subcommittees in order to assess the preparedness of the polling centers to conduct the voting and accommodate voters. ICEM observers reported the following:
On the positive side, observers reported that the majority of the polling centers were properly identified as polling facilities and were accessible to voters. However, they also observed that little or no preparatory work had been done to ready the premises for the election day activities. Many of the centers were still displaying campaign materials for both the NDP and the opposition parties.
In Beni Suef and Cairo official ballots have been taken out from the polling stations and are being circulated and distributed to voters marked for NDP candidates. ICEM views this as an illegal activity that questions the overall fairness and legality of the election outcome.
VOTING TRANSGRESSIONS AND IRREGULARITIES
ICEM Observers Expelled and Threatened at Gunpoint
In Giza, El-Saf district, El-Aquez school, three ICEM observers were expelled and threatened at gunpoint by police officers and told not to show up again at the polling center. The jacket and the ID of one of the three were confiscated by an unidentified group of people in civilian clothes.
In Giza, El-Badrashin district, police official closed the El-Badrashin school which was used as the polling center and stopped the voting process.
ICEM strongly condemns these and all acts of harassment against its observers and considers these to be violations of basic human rights. ICEM observers continued to carry out their work, which they consider a duty to Egypt and its citizens. ICEM calls on all the government authorities to enable and assist election monitors in performing their duties aimed at ensuring the fairness and freedom of the election.
ICEM Observers Apprehended, Interrogated and Not Allowed to Monitor Elections
The vast majority of observers were denied access to the polling stations to monitor the opening procedures. In addition, around 25% of the polling stations where ICEM fielded observers, its personnel were not allowed access to the polling station when the voting commenced.
In Cairo, El-Gamaleia district, El-Hussein school, the officials expelled ICEM observers from the polling station when the NDP candidate came in to cast his ballot accompanied by a number of his supporters that were allowed to vote as well.
As he tried to take photographs of ballot-stuffing, ICEM observer Sami Dieb was beaten by the supporters of the NDP candidate Ahmed Fathi Surur, the chair the People’s Assembly in the Saeda Zeineb district of Cairo.
Polling Centers Open Late
Around 55% of the polling facilities observed by the ICEM observers did not opened on time. The two main reasons for the late opening were that either the supervising judge was late or that the judge would not start until the indelible ink was supplied to the polling station. In some other cases voting was delayed due to the absence of the candidate poll-watchers.
Cases of Violence
NDP supporters beat the Al-Wafd newspaper reporter in the El-Baugur district in Manufeja and assaulted a group of journalists in El-Saaf district. In Hadeik El-Kobba district, the NDP candidate beat a Muslim Brotherhood poll-watcher.
According to the ICEM monitors in Bab-El-Shariah, three people sustained injuries in a clash between NDP and Al-Ghad supporters.
ICEM observers reported reoccurring violence between supporters of various candidates in the Giza, El-Badrashin and El-Gamaleja districts in Cairo.
In the Dairut district in Asyut, an independent candidate’s supporters manned the entrance to a polling station at the El-Kheid school and intimidated voters.
Voters’ Lists and Ballots Were Tampered With
Overall, many ICEM observers have reported inaccuracies and inconsistencies regarding the voters’ lists throughout all of Egypt. ICEM insists that the accuracy and the integrity of the voters’ lists remain critical to any voting process.
Monitors in Asiut (Dairut district) and also in Giza (El-Bulaq Dakrur district) reported that voters’ lists were replaced during the voting process.
In the El-Haluan and El-Tibin districts of Cairo, the voters’ lists at the polling stations differed from the ones hung on the walls of the polling center. Monitors also reported that several of the voters’ lists were handwritten.
In Giza (El-Bulaq Dakrur district), a few of the candidates’ numbers had been changed in the ballots.
In Cairo (El-Helwan district), monitors reported that ballots belonging to other districts were delivered. The voting had to be postponed for three hours until the proper ballots were located and delivered.
At the Shagarat Mariam polling center in the Matareya District of Cairo, monitors reported that additional ballots had been brought in and not registered.
Secrecy of the Ballot Violated
ICEM monitors have reported witnessing consistent violations of the secrecy of the voting process as well as group voting both in Cairo (El-Helwan, El-Halifa and El-Manial districts) and in Giza.
There have been repeated reports of the closing of polling stations during official voting hours without justification, for up to several hours, at places such as the al-Attar school in Shubra and Bayad al-Arab in Benisuef.
Vote-buying has been reported in the Shubra, Nozha, Hadday, Mataria districts of Cairo.
In the Shebbin al-Kom district, women had been hired to try and prevent other women from voting. At the Fatema Zahra school in the Medinat al-Salam district, NDP supporters intimidated voters.
In Heliopolis, candidate representatives were not allowed into the polling stations until 10 AM under pretenses that the judges did not receive instructions to allow them into the stations.
Also in Heliopolis, in the Muhammed Rifat school and the Season Browie private school, there were at least two cases of NDP candidate representatives stuffing ballots under the supervision of the judges there.
Additionally, monitors observed NDP supporters voting multiple times in Heliopolis by traveling from one polling place to another via organized microbuses, with license plate numbers: 5253, 11281, 40223, and 181. In a similar instance of multiple-voting, public buses were used to transport employees of the National Electricity Company from one polling station to another in Giza to support the NDP.
At least 150 blank, but officially stamped, pink voter-cards were found at the al-Abour school in the Mataria district.
In the al-Zetoun district, group voting took place by the Manfeese Medical Company, where employees arrived en masse and voted together for the NDP candidate there.
ICEM observers reported throughout the day that campaigning was taking place for position, opposition and independent candidates outside the polling facilities throughout Egypt. Observers reported only a few cases where they witnessed campaigning and campaign materials inside polling centers.
ICEM observers reported that NDP, opposition, independent candidate supporters, and thugs were present at the majority of the polling facilities intimidating voters. This form of illegal campaigning is inflammatory makes the environment extremely volatile.
COUNTING VIOLATIONS AND IRREGULARITIES
In general, NGO observers were not allowed to access the counting process and denied their right to establish a comprehensive, non-partisan monitoring of the counting of the votes.
Many candidate poll-watchers were also denied access to the counting centers. In a number of cases, candidate poll-watchers were delayed in being able to exerciss their right to enter the counting centers.
An ICEM observer witnessed the change of the ballot boxes 91, 92, 93, 94 used at El-Masara School in the Helwan district of Cairo. The observer reported that the original boxes were being transported by a microbus with the license plate number 20081 (Cairo) which was intercepted by a public bus which then took the boxes to the police station. When the boxes were taken out from the police station, all of the ballots inside were well folded and regularly stacked.
Observers have reported that a few of the ballot boxes (from El-Manyial district of Cairo of Cairo and El-Haram district of Giza) arrived at the counting center missing the red seal. ICEM has photos of these boxes.
The ICEM observer standing outside the counting center in Manufeja, El-Bagur district, reported that the NDP candidate Kemal Shazli entered the counting center guarded by a dozen armed supporters that also entered the counting center. His opponent, Dr. Muhamed Kemal informed the ICEM observer outside that these thugs threatened the counting center staff at a gunpoint and beat two of the candidate poll-watchers. Police did not interfere to stop this harassment.